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#250 Summer Step Up Programme – supporting Year 11s transitioning to Post 16 education

Jacqueline Bircham, Ipswich Opportunity Area Team Programme Director, New Anglia LEP

What did we do?

Year 11 pupils faced a significant interruption to their learning as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions which closed schools to most pupils in March 2020, alongside the cancellation of national exams. While schools continued to provide education remotely, many schools reported that a number of Year 11 pupils had “checked out”, with a small number at risk of making an unsuccessful transition to college courses without important advice, guidance and preparation for the practical and academic demands of moving on to college.

During 2020 school closures as a result of the first Covid-19 lockdown meant that some Year 11 students had an abrupt end to their school career.

A programme of mentoring alongside refresher lessons in English and Maths helped young people with lower levels of confidence and independence around learning to make a successful and sustained transition to further education.

The thing I enjoyed the most about being part of the WADADM Summer programme was that it was deeply useful to me, it kept me motivated, the sessions were interesting, soothing, entertaining and helped me learn to get used to just keep going and work hard. I feel a little more confident than before, it helped me improve my English and maths as well which are two extremely important courses and I am very happy with this. I also now know how to use google classrooms so this is very helpful for my future as I may have to do online classrooms again in the future.

Everything was perfect! The environment! The people! The teachers and mentors were absolutely astonishing and remarkable! Thank you for this programme!!!

Thank you to my mentor and my maths tutor I wouldn’t have been confident about showing my face, using my voice, my work or what I was saying in chat without you!

Feedback from year 11 pupils involved in the Summer Step Up programme.

Summary of impact

The retention rate of students who took part in the programme and enrolled at Suffolk New College were very favourable given their starting points, the circumstances in Summer 2020 and compared to other level 2 cohorts. 89% of those enrolled were still on their initial course at Easter 2021, and 82% of those were making strong progress.

Young people told us that following the course they were confident that the knew how to study effectively, with greater confidence in techniques to help with comprehension and written tasks.

In 2021 undergraduates at the University of Suffolk (UoS) were being trained to become mentors for an ongoing programme in schools. Some of these “Student Ambassadors” will be trained as trainers to ensure each year new mentors will be created.

Steps taken

Schools in Norwich were asked to identify young people who were at risk of an unsuccessful transition to City College Norwich because they lacked confidence or independence in their learning, particularly in literacy or numeracy. In Ipswich Suffolk New College identified prospective level 2 learners whose application profile suggested they would find transition challenging. Maths and English teachers from local schools designed and delivered online tuition, and trained youth workers delivered sessions in study skills and provided mentor support. NEACO provided sessions on well-being.

Students were provided with a laptop and dongle if this was a barrier to them taking part in the programme. Pupils received 1 hour per week of study skills and well-being, and 2 hours per week of English or Maths tuition, in online small group sessions over 8 weeks.

Mentors kept in regular contact with students encouraging them to sustain engagement with the programme, and helping their mentees overcome barriers to learning and transition.

What would we do differently

Sustaining engagement in remote learning for a group of young people who were identified as struggling with confidence and independence, and falling between educational institutions as they were between March and September 2020 was enormously challenging. The persistence of good-quality mentors with significant experience of working with young people was key, but the retention rate was still low, with just over 50% of those young people identified continuing to the end of the course.

The Covid-19 pandemic made an online course the only option, but in different times a face-to-face course would have facilitated the building of trusting relationships and engagement.

Mentor support was key to sustaining engagement at a very challenging time for this group of young people. Several students who started to fall away were encouraged to continue the programme to the end after significant support by mentors.


Funding for the Summer Step Up Programme was provided by the Norwich and Ipswich Opportunity Area Teams.

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Ipswich Area Opportunity Team
Norwich Area Opportunity Team
Kirsty Langley-Kara, Lead Mentor Summer Step Up Programme